Sando @ The High Dive, Edinburgh
Sando's residency at The High Dive brings Japanese-inspired sandwiches, incredible cauliflower, and plenty of orbs to ponder
‘Time is a flat circle’. ‘History repeats itself’. ‘There are no new ideas’. They’re interesting tropes, but it’s a bit weird to watch them unfold in front of you. You pick up a new beer, think it sounds interesting, look back and the entire fridge has restocked itself with that same style of beer. You hear vague mutterings about the 2000s making a comeback, and all of a sudden you can’t move for orange-flavoured editions of your favourite foods.
Or maybe you look on social media and learn of the reopening of a bar that you remember from its first reopening. The High Dive in Newington, once an adjunct to Civerinos’ various pizza places, is now being run by the folk behind atmospheric cocktail-friendly bars Nightcap and the St. Vincent. There’s a new DJ booth, the drinks list has been refreshed, and the enormous colour-changing ball lights remain in place so you can get your ‘pondering my orb’ photos in time for that meme making a comeback. A cool bar with good drinks which feels like it could turn into a massive party at any moment; truly, it’s our kind of place.
But we’re here for the food, as Sando – the Japanese-inspired sandwich pop-up that’s been doing the rounds across the city over the past year – have taken over the kitchen. A much-vaunted sandwich pop-up settling down in a neighbourhood pub sounds like a familiar set-up, and we did write about basically this exact situation at the other end of town a few months ago, but to be fair, King of Feasts and Sando present two very different ideas.
The King is a wildcard, a Joker, and every other card in the deck; a brilliant and mercurial chef who’ll try anything at least once. Sando feels much more measured and deliberate – the Japanese influence on the short menu of sandwiches and sides comes through in both the specificity of the dishes and the meticulous approach to their preparation.
The bread is homemade Shokupan milk bread, the sauces are all made in-house, and the construction is impressively restrained. The O.G Tonkatsu (£10) is a hefty, juicy slab of breaded and fried pork, sandwiched in some of that light and fluffy bread. There’s a smearing of tonkatsu barbecue sauce, some pickles and a bit of cabbage slaw, but this is all about keeping things simple and doing them well. The result is pretty delicious – it’s nicely balanced, pleasingly mellow but incredibly umami. The Kinoku Katsu (£8) is a similar set up, but with mushrooms replacing the pork, and it’s also impressive. Without an extremely rich piece of meat in the way, the subtleties in the slaw and sauce get a bit more room to shine.
The best thing on the menu is the Karaage Cauli (£5). Again, we’ve had our share of Japanese-style fried vegetables on these pages recently, but this cauliflower blows all other cauliflowers out of the water. Beyond a crunchy exterior is a melt-in-the-mouth texture that will make you question exactly what is going on, as the chunks somehow end up fresh, crispy, chewy and creamy all at the same time. Throw on some Japanese mayonnaise and a bit more of that excellent tonkatsu sauce and it’s an absolute winner.
Sando are making great sandwiches, and their laser focus and excellent choices make The High Dive well worth checking out. It’s weird to watch trends play out in real time, but if this particular wave results in pubs all across the city serving up delicious and exciting sandwiches, we’re on board.
The High Dive, 81-85 St Leonard's St, Edinburgh, EH8 9QY
Kitchen open Thu & Fri 4-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-4pm